SAR, Vol 12 No 2, February 1997
"Cargo cult: millenarian religious and political movement widespread in Melanesia during this century where local inhabitants have been confronted with western imperialism. They expect their ancestors or some other liberating power to return, in the very near future, in planes or ships laden with modern goods to free them from their penury. As part of the cult they prepare runways and landing areas for the expected cargoes."
A headline on the front page of today's Globe and Mail (February 4, 1997) says a lot about southern Africa: "Mandela gets praise, asks for investment." The occasion? This year's edition of the "World Economic Forum" which annually brings together an all-star team of global capitalism's deep-thinkers and big-players in Davos, Switzerland for an often illuminating discussion the workings of their system.
Mandela's contribution: "I noticed that the major industrial leaders of the world are gathered here. I wish you could give me your cheque books, sign them and I'll fill in the amount." The equation was clear: foreign investment equals economic development. Moreover, "we can only [consolidate democracy] with your support, if you come and invest in our country"!
Ironically, last year's meeting at Davos had produced a troubled questioning of the workings of global capitalism from the Forum's own founding father, Klaus Schwab. Expressing the fear that "globalization" might become "synonymous with a brakeless train wreaking havoc," Schwab countered his own statement that "we have got accustomed to the idea that globalization will inevitably succeed" with the admission that "I am not so sure any more."
And in attendance at Davos this year was George Soros ("one of the world's most prominent financiers") whose cover article in the current Atlantic Monthly , the widely-read and notably un/radical American magazine, announces "the Capitalist Threat" ("the main threat to social justice and economic stability now comes from the uninhibited pursuit of laissez-faire economics").
All this, yet never a discouraging word out of southern Africa. Not a critique of "neo-liberalism" but rather its unquestioning embrace. Not the question "Why capitalism?" but rather, à la Mandela, "Why not more of it?"
Increasingly, the logic of the ANC's GEAR document (named for the "Growth, Employment and Redistribution" strategy the document is said to define) has replaced the more bottom-up, popularly-driven developmental logic of the movement's initial Reconstruction and Development Programme. The ANC's "growth plan" has become, primarily, one of setting the stage for a presumed influx of international investment, with all bets now being placed (to take two examples explored, by Patrick Bond and Ighsaan Schroeder respectively, in the present issue) on such initiatives as an ever more welcoming posture towards the Bretton Woods institutions and an ever more "flexible" labour market.
Not that alternative voices are absent in South Africa, sceptical both as to capital's basic willingness to invest in any substantial way in South Africa and as to the likelihood of its having a suitably transformative effect even if it did. We feature some such voices prominently in the present issue, Bond himself reporting on the emergence of the "Campaign Against Neo-liberalism in South Africa" for example, while also providing the reader with a context for situating a pair of critical initiatives whose founding documents we reproduce here. But the fact remains that, increasingly, in the corridors of power the prevailing wisdom is best summed up by the immortal words of Canada's own W. P. Kinsella: "Build it [in this case, the proper `enabling environment'!], and they will come."
A similar mood seems also to pervade developments elsewhere in the region. Note the tone of Michel Chossudovsky's grim account, in our lead article, of the "export of apartheid" that the current thrust of Afrikaner farmers from South Africa into the rest of the region represents. And compare this tone with that of Mozambique's Frelimo government, prepared enthusiastically to hail such farmers' invasion of its country as so much "manna from heaven."
Not that the failure of nerve and lack of imagination on the part of Frelimo's leadership need surprise us at this late date. Even more instructive, therefore, may be the comparison between Chossudovsky's response to this development - and his fears for the fate of the indigenous populations in the face of this "invasion" - with the actual response of many rural dwellers in Niassa Province (a principle expansion area for Afrikaner advance). As given voice in the article by Olaf Juergensen and Hartmut Krugman that serves here as a suggestive pendant to Chossudovsky's account, many such rural dwellers actually choose to find some promise in the Akrikaners' prospective presence.
Of course, this could be a sign not so much of these rural dwellers' credulity as a reflex of their desperation and need ... and of the degree to which other options, other policies, have failed them in the past. Still, either way - cargo cult or last resort - the picture that emerges of so vulnerable a corner of southern Africa as Niassa represents is not an encouraging one. Can the region ever find its way back to the kind of popularly based, firmly self-confident, internally driven impulses for development - with markets on tap but not on top - that the liberation struggles once seemed to promise?
Southern Africa Report
Contents - Vol 12 No 2
Waiting for Foreign Investment in Southern Africa"
Editorial: Cargo Cult - 1
Exporting Apartheid: Mozambique and Beyond - 3
by Michel Chossudovsky
Paradise Lost? A Blueprint for Niassa - 8
by Olaf Tataryn Juergensen and Hartmut Pereira Krugman
The Forgotten Soldiers: Women in Zimbabwe's Liberation War - 12
by Tanya Lyons
Fighting Neo-Liberalism: The South African Front - 14
by Patrick Bond
Undermining Standards: The ANC's New Employment Strategy - 21
by Ighsaan Schroeder and Marlea Clarke
Gay Rights (cont'd) I. Zimbabwe - 25
by Marc Epprecht
Gay Rights (cont'd) II. Namibia - 26
by Absalom Shigwedha
"Not Much of an Election": Zambia 1996 - 27
by Jim Kirkwood
Review: Stealing the Peace Dividend - 30
review by Carolyn Bassett
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